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Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Monika Siebert

Abstract

Karen Tei Yamashita’s debut novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, is best described by the text itself, a story that details the adventures of:

an obscure Japanese immigrant known to have a strange personal satellite the size of a golf ball whizzing inches from his forehead, probably some sort of bogus invention intended to complete the eccentricity of this man who, since making his great fortune on the Brazilian lotteries, now calls Brazil his home. (Yamashita 77)

In this excerpt that raises more questions than provides answers, we see Yamashita forego a standard expositional description of the protagonist. Instead, she roots her text in Asian experience, transnational immigration, and fantastical elements, as exemplified by the evocation of an enigmatic, golf ball sized sphere that only becomes more conceptually absurd once the reader knows that this sentient satellite is in fact the novel’s narrator. While an unusual method of characterization, this description via allusion to other events at play in the novel becomes fitting when we see that Through the Arc’s protagonist, Kazumasa Ishimaru, is the point of convergence for several similarly ridiculous plots. Alongside the satellited protagonist, a cast of equally unique figures populates the novel, each with their own distinct yet interdependent storylines. Over the course of Through the Arc, a tight novelistic fabric is woven out of the capitalist escapades of a three-armed CEO, the rise of an ear-tickling shaman of feathers, the unintentional foundation of pigeon powered messaging by a simple avian enthusiast, and the beatification and martyrdom of a walking saint turned radio jockey. As a whole picture, Yamashita’s novel details the migratory convergence of these characters onto the Brazilian rain forest and places at the heart of this junction an obscure Japanese immigrant, whose face is itself obscured by the ‘strange personal satellite.’

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